Before You Buy a Blu-ray Player

The Facts You Need for a Smart Purchase

Blu-ray player
Blu-ray player. Tony Cordoza / Getty Images

Even if you haven't jumped into the Blu-ray market, you have, no doubt, heard the hype. Many standard DVDs have trailers touting the improved audio and video quality of high-definition Blu-ray. The $1 million question is whether Blu-ray actually lives up to the hype. The answer is "yes," as long as you have the home theater system to back it up.

It's Not Just the Player

Blu-ray players do offer significantly improved audio and video, but the first thing a consumer needs to consider is the home theater system they plan to watch movies on. If you are yet to switch to a high-definition TV, you will get very little out of a Blu-ray player. That's because a standard-definition television is not capable of displaying full Blu-ray quality.

Great Audio Requires a Great System

Blu-ray audio is superior but, as with video, you will only get top quality if you have a sound system capable of decoding all the information on the discs. The better your home theater amplifier and speakers, the more likely you are to reap the full benefits of Blu-ray sound. People who don't have their system set up with an outside amplifier (i.e. folks who use the standard television speakers) aren't likely to notice much difference between DVD and Blu-ray sound.

How Good Is It?

Blu-ray offers the best possible video signal you can bring into your home. Depending on the quality of the source transferred to disc, the picture can be considerably better than standard DVD. But the leap from DVD to Blu-ray may not seem as dramatic as the leap from standard- to high-definition television. That's because upscaling DVD players make standard DVDs look quite good.

The bottom line is that the switch from an upscaled DVD to Blu-ray is more of a baby step than what we saw with high-definition television, but it's a worthwhile baby step.

Is It Worth the Price?

That depends. For me, Blu-ray is worth the money, but I'm one of those guys who loves to have the best possible audio and video and winds up being an early adopter of all sorts of new media. I have friends who are perfectly happy with the audio and video quality they're getting from DVD and have no interest in upgrading. Ultimately, it's up to you to decide what type of quality you're happy with.

Should You Buy It?

For the average person, it makes sense to jump to a Blu-ray player if you already own a high-definition television. The prices have come way down over the years, so you can find nice players for an affordable price and budget models for even less.

How Much Should It Cost?

That depends on your needs. I'm all about versatility, so I think Sony's PlayStation 3 is the best value on the market. Not only is it an outstanding Blu-ray player, it's a great gaming system, which is terrific if you like video games or have kids in the house. What's more, Sony has a slimmer PlayStation 3. Not a bad price considering all that it has to offer. If you know you'll never play video games, there are other, less expensive options.

More on Blu-ray

To learn even more about Blu-ray, be sure to read my Frequently Asked Questions page.